Experiences setting up Raspberry Pi as media server

I’ve just been playing with setting up my Raspberry Ri as a media server, using Raspbmc. All was very easy to install and get set up – including network connection via wifi and using my Android phone as a remote control – using the Yatse app.

However I have found a few issues, which I think are mainly due to the hardware I’m using:

  • Flickering screen: I’m using a cheap(ish) HDMI to VGA convertor as I’m using an old VGA-only monitor for the screen. Quite often when navigating through the menus, the screen goes black and then comes on again. If I connect a proper HDMI cable & screen, then I don’t get this problem, so seems it’s likely to be to do with my convertor cable, and I get very similar issues when using a standard Raspbian disk image.
  • Poor sound quality: As neither of my monitors (neither VGA nor HDMI) have any sound output capabilities, I’m using the audio out jack to a set of external (and externally powered) speakers. But there’s a low rumbling noise in the background whenever I’m playing any video or audio. It’s not really loud, but loud enough to be slightly annoying and I get the same noise when using headphones on the same socket. I suspect this is due to low sound output quality (the media when played on my laptop sounds fine) from the audio out socket.

For the sound quality and the flickering screen, I think both these issues could be solved by using a proper HDMI screen which also has sound output (or at least an audio socket) – but until I get one of these to test with I’ll never be sure!

  • Wifi connection dropping: I notice that my phone loses connection to the server quite often (and often enough to be a bit frustrating) even though all the hardware (router, phone and media server) is located in the same small room. This may be due to the cheap wifi adaptor I’m using, though it seemed quite reliable using the Raspbian image
  • Unable to fast-forward: For some reason the fast forward and rewind controls don’t appear to be working well for me, they’ll either jump directly to the end or beginning of the media. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the Android app, or with Raspbmc.

Admittedly, I’ve not spent much time actually trying to fix these issues – if/when I figure out how to fix them then I’ll post again with the details. But it has been very interesting to see what can be done and how easy it was to get running (despite the issues above).

Update [18-Jan-2013]: The externally powered usb hub which I ordered arrived this morning, so have just plugged this in and attached the wifi dongle to this (instead of directly in a usb port on the raspberry pi. This now seems to have vastly improved 3 of the issues above (flickering screen, poor sound, and wifi dropping) – yay! So, a couple of possible reasons which may explain why it’s working better: maybe too much power was being drawn from the wifi dongle? or the HDMI/VGA adapter draws a little power (for the digital -> analogue conversion)? or maybe just both of these combined meant a bit too much power was being taken away from the Pi itself?

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